How to effectively count to ten.

count your blessingsThomas Jefferson once famously advised: “When angry, count ten, before you speak; if very angry, an hundred.”

(I always thought it was “a” hundred, but who am I to correct TJ? Also, you think he'd care if I called him TJ? Probably less than if I corrected his grammar…).

Anyhow, ten seconds is a long time.

But while counting to ten often calms me down, it sometimes just gives me more time to formulate a dumber argument…

I have something even better to count if you're angry and about to argue with your wife.

Forget numbers. Count blessings.

And with a tip of the cap to TJ, count ten of them if you need to.  Even “an” hundred.

Write them down if it helps. Keep them in a file for future reference if needed.

Chances are, whatever you were going to argue about seems less important after counting ten blessings in your life. It's so powerful that sometimes counting just one is enough.

For example, a few weeks ago, a friend was complaining about being late to work.

“The traffic was horrible,” he explained, “There was an accident. I’m so annoyed because I left five minutes late to let my wife get a quick shower in and the accident had just happened a few minutes before I left. I JUST missed it. I can't wait to let her know her shower made me late for work.”

I totally understood where he and his wife were coming from.

Nobody likes traffic, especially when you think you could have avoided it. On the other hand, if you have little kids at home, “showers” quickly become a form of currency.

“I'm so ticked [not his word].”

He was steaming. He sat in traffic for a half hour because of a five-minute shower.

He wasn’t asking for advice. He just needed to vent.

He also needed to count.

So I tried something.

“Can I make a suggestion?” I asked, carefully.

“What?” he responded, only slightly changing his tone.

“I’d be frustrated, too, but you have a ton on your plate. Why not wait until you're caught up to call her. Plus, you can always talk with her about it after work.”

I was hoping I could change his focus a bit. He was really worried about his workload.

“Yeah, that makes sense. I don’t want to end up having to work late on top of it all,” he responded, still annoyed.

I had my opening.

“I hear you. Crazy how close the timing was though. When you think about it, there’s more than a little chance that the shower actually kept you from being the one in the accident, right?”

He paused and then saw what I saw: The timing was too close. If he left on time he could have been in the accident. He might have “just avoided the accident,” not “just hit the traffic.”

The fact that he safely arrived at work, late or not, is a blessing at least one person didn’t have that morning.

“I hate you,” he said as the light bulb turned on. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Maybe I should just leave things alone and just get my work done,” he conceded, still not happy, but at least with a different perspective.

Stopping to count blessings is no easy task. It has been really tough for me, too. And I still slip up quite a bit and say something stupid.

Yet every time I count blessings before saying something to my wife about something that's bothering me in that moment I realize how dumb most of my complaints are.

Like how she often inadvertently cleans up my napkin at the dinner table before I'm done with it, forcing me to use a second napkin (GASP!!! How DARE she!).

Pre-counting I'd get frustrated. Post-counting I remember that she often shopped for the food, planned and prepared the meal, with two kids hanging around her ankles, and was just trying to pick up a bit. And we probably got the napkins for free from Chinese takeout the week before anyhow… So what am I complaining about!?!?!

P.s.  Is TJ right about “an” hundred? Why does it sound so odd? Same thing with “an” historic, although with that one I just don't pronounce the h if I use “an” and do when I say “a.” Ok, enough grammar for today.

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